American Exceptionalism

  • The NY Times breaks down the reasons why the US is #1 on all the covid-19 charts:

    America stands alone

    Nearly every country has struggled to contain the coronavirus. But only one affluent nation has suffered a severe, sustained outbreak for more than four months: the United States.

    Our colleague David Leonhardt — the usual writer of this newsletter — and a team of other Times journalists around the world interviewed scientists and public health experts to reconstruct America’s unique failure. Their reporting points to two central themes.

    First, the United States has a tradition of prioritizing individualism over government restrictions. That aversion to collective action helped lead to inadequate state lockdowns and inconsistent adherence to mask wearing based on partisanship instead of public health.

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    By The New York Times | Sources: Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker, New York Times database from state and local governments.

    Second, many experts agree, America’s poor results stem in substantial measure from the performance of the Trump administration. “If you had to summarize our approach, it’s really poor federal leadership — disorganization and denial,” said Andy Slavitt, who ran Medicare and Medicaid from 2015 to 2017.

    The administration’s travel restrictions were insufficient. Health officials initially gave confusing advice around wearing masks in public. And the president’s public statements — including claiming that the virus wasn’t serious and would disappear — regularly spread misinformation. In no other high-income country have political leaders so frequently departed from expert advice.

    Together, skepticism toward collective action and the administration’s scattered approach have undermined the national response to the pandemic. True, the United States has made some improvements, including on mask wearing and testing. But unlike in South Korea, Germany and other countries, the virus continues to overwhelm daily life for Americans.

    The frustration for many experts is that this outcome was avoidable. As one said: “This isn’t actually rocket science. We know what to do, and we’re not doing it.”